North Korea has introduced smoking bans in some public places to provide citizens with "hygienic living environments", raising questions about whether the nation's chain-smoking supreme leader may kick the habit himself.
The new law introduced on Wednesday (Thursday NZT) by the governing Supreme People's Assembly aims to protect the lives and health of North Koreans by tightening the legal and social controls on the production and sale of cigarettes, state media KCNA reported.
The law stipulates that smoking is banned in specific venues, such as political and ideological education centres, theatres and cinemas, and medical and public health facilities. KCNA added that the law indicates penalties for breaking rules.
North Korea has notoriously high smoking rates. Some 46 per cent of men smoked tobacco as of 2017, according to a World Health Organisation survey. Apparently, no women smoke.
Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is the nation's most famous smoker, and has been frequently seen on state media lighting up a cigarette.
In July 2017, North Korea's state broadcaster showed him casually lighting up in front of one of his liquid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles as it underwent preparations for a test launch. He was also shown sharing a post-launch smoke with his officials after the ICBM test was successful.
According to South Korean media, however, the leader's heavy smoking has caused some tensions with his wife, Ri Sol-Ju.
At a dinner in Pyongyang between Kim and a senior South Korean envoy during a diplomatic détente in 2018, Ri is reported to have gently chided him, saying: "I always [tell him] that it would be good if he quit, but he does not listen."
In 2019, Kim Yo-jong, his younger sister, made headlines when she was caught in Japanese TV footage holding a crystal ashtray for her brother as he puffed away during a break at China's Nanning rail station en route to Vietnam for a nuclear summit with US President Donald Trump.
Earlier this year, Kim, who is obese and also known to be fond of alcohol, disappeared from view for several weeks, sparking rumours that he was seriously ill and possibly recovering from surgery.
The reports were never confirmed. Nor is it known if the possible health scare prompted the newly introduced restrictions on public smoking.
North Korea is reported to have 14 cigarette factories. Kim's favourite brand, "7.27", is named for the date when the Korean War came to an end in what Pyongyang claims was its victory: July 27, 1953.